19 March ~ Desperate though many Blackburn supporters were to see the back of Sam Allardyce, we at least hoped for a well-planned succession with an experienced replacement producing attractive football from mid-table obscurity. Instead we got a current member of the coaching staff suspiciously connected to the agency advising Venky’s and who had the savvy to travel to India to plead his case with the new owners. After promises of free-flowing play and a top-ten finish, we’ve seen a traumatic slide in form and league placing with fans turning against both Steve Kean and the chicken conglomerate now in charge at Ewood Park.
Today Blackburn meet Blackpool in what locals are describing as a “nine pointer”, with both clubs tantalisingly close to the 40-point mark but also precariously positioned just above the relegation zone in a very tight league. One of the many connections between Rovers and the Seasiders is that both sacked Allardyce while he was doing a steady job, and Sam’s shadow looms large over a fixture that resonates with Lancashire’s influence on the history of the game.
Only 24 miles and goal difference separate two clubs that epitomise how a sport now dominated by the big money few was once open to the challenge from the non-metropolitan corners of the country. In the days of the maximum wage these small-town teams competed for trophies with the likes of Stan Mortensen, Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Armfield and Alan Ball at Bloomfield Road, and England captain Bryan Douglas, Ronnie Clayton and Derek Dougan gracing Ewood Park.
Now they face each other desperate for points to move away from danger. Whatever the result on Saturday and, even if Blackpool are relegated, Ian Holloway will surely remain a favourite at Bloomfield Road. If Blackburn win and avoid the drop, Kean will still struggle to convince Rovers supporters of his managerial credentials. One is feted for producing great results from a limited team while the other is denigrated for spoiling the work of a previous incumbent, yet they currently lie 14th and 15th. Fans travelling to Ewood Park will be happy to be in with a shout of staying up in mid-March while the locals wonder how it's gone so badly wrong. Bruce Wilkinson